The Kids Are All Right

I hadn’t planned to post about the Parkland students  who have become the articulate and determined voice of a newly energized gun control movement. Given the amount of media attention generated by last Saturday’s amazingly successful march, I doubted I could add anything to the conversation already underway.

But then I read articles from the Christian Science Monitor and from Slate asking–and answering–the question “why are these kids so articulate and effective?”

As the Monitor explained,

The Parkland students were thrust into the spotlight, but they had preparation for this moment. Thanks to state law, they have benefited from a civic education that many Americans have gone without – one that has taught them how to politically mobilize, articulate their opinions, and understand complex legislative processes. Now they are using their education to lead their peers across the country.

“Parkland really shows the potential of public civic education,” says Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. “The goal is to make every student like that – not afraid to discuss difficult issues,” and with the skills to express a viewpoint.

As the article from Slate elaborated,

The effectiveness of these poised, articulate, well-informed, and seemingly preternaturally mature student leaders of Stoneman Douglas has been vaguely attributed to very specific personalities and talents. Indeed, their words and actions have been so staggeringly powerful, they ended up fueling laughable claims about crisis actors, coaching, and fat checks from George Soros. But there is a more fundamental lesson to be learned in the events of this tragedy: These kids aren’t freaks of nature. Their eloquence and poise also represent the absolute vindication of the extracurricular education they receive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Despite the gradual erosion of the arts and physical education in America’s public schools, the students of Stoneman Douglas have been the beneficiaries of the kind of 1950s-style public education that has all but vanished in America and that is being dismantled with great deliberation as funding for things like the arts, civics, and enrichment are zeroed out.

Civics education, it turns out, really can produce effective citizens, and Florida, it also turns out, has the most comprehensive civics education program in the country.

The Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act – named for the former member of the US Supreme Court who has made civic education a hallmark of her post-bench work – passed in 2010 with bipartisan support. It mandates that all middle school students in Florida take a civics course, pass a comprehensive test, and include civics education reading in K-12 language arts.

More than 90 percent of Florida civics teachers discuss current events in the classroom, and two-thirds of them do so every week. Most employ a variety of methods, including  debates and mock trials.

Florida’s Broward County, the sixth largest school district in the United States where Stoneman Douglas High is located, takes civics education even further. In the district-wide debate program, every public high school and middle school has a team, and several elementary schools participate as well.

“[T]he overall emphasis of civic learning is paying off,” says Louise Dubé, executive director of iCivics, a civic learning website with teaching resources and games founded by Justice O’Connor in 2009. “[Parkland] is a sad way that we got to discover this, but a Civics 2.0 – not your grandmother’s civics – but a civics that is relevant, engaging, and puts kids at the center of the political action … graduates citizens who are ready to be a part of a community that we call the American experiment.”

These amazing kids haven’t just exhibited poise and passion; the have demonstrated an ability to marshal their peers and supportive adults, and mount an impressive display of disciplined public outrage. (NBC reported nearly a million marchers in Washington, D.C. alone.) They have displayed an understanding of politics and the role of citizens in the crafting of public policy.

Empowered by civic education, they’ve given other teenagers throughout America a Master Class in civic engagement.

Assuming Trump and Bolton don’t nuke the world in the interim, the country will eventually be in very good hands.


  1. Sheila, this morning’s blog is your key message in all your carefully written and critically thought compelling articles worthy of reading and reflection. Civil discourse on complex issues is an art form nurtured by good parenting, liberal education and lifelong learning and practice. The largest gift box on my 18th birthday was my voter registration completed by my father who obtained my card. Strong parenting made a lifetime message. We the People is the signature education program of the Indiana Bar Association available to all schools in our state. Fishers High School is this year’s state champion now competing at the national championship currently in progress in Washington D.C. Years ago, my daughter participated in this program at Lawrence Central that inspired her career of pubic service. The Parkland student leaders are remarkable and extraordinary examples of these endeavors across the nation and are now our fresh new leaders that compel our attention and support. Think about this. 100’s of thousands marched and sent a message. Did you hear about any clashes with police or among each other? The only ugly name calling and incoherent rants came from the NRA and other high end wealth talking heads who obviously felt the heat.

  2. I agree with you Sheila, these kids represent hope. Trump is already eluding to a “major event” needed to bring our country together. He overheard that in a meeting.

    In the documentary, A Century of Self, they discuss the dropping of civics classes in the 50’s since we couldn’t be trusted with information. Look what the German people did!

    As a country, we shifted from “informed citizen” to “consumer” — mass production of goods. Marketing and public relations controlled the masses with propaganda. Buy. Buy. Buy.

    Not sure why such a backward state like Florida didn’t follow along, but you can bet civics classes will be dropped shortly.

    These kids are our future and they’ve been taking on politicians right and left. They are progressives because they understand the problem and know the solutions. What prevents us from implementing these solutions?


    The right-wing media has demonized open-mindedness (liberalism). The attacks these kids are getting on social media by Americans demonstrates the lack of unity in this country. “Bringing people together is a worthless exercise.”

    It will get worse before it gets better but this is another ray of sunshine.

  3. Sheila; this is a spotlighted issue today which you could not ignore, it required your posting of this blog because those millions of young people who marched last Saturday are proof of your oft repeated statement regarding the NEED for required civics classes in all of our education systems.

    “These kids are our future and they’ve been taking on politicians right and left. They are progressives because they understand the problem and know the solutions. What prevents us from implementing these solutions?


    Many are also already registered to vote, will be registered in time to vote in November and are working to register other voters. These kids haven’t hesitated to take on the corrupted leaders at the top; they have thrown down the gauntlet demanding action to protect all lives. Remember the names Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg for they are our future leaders, if they are allowed to live long enough to lead. They are the two individuals out of those millions who legislators and the head of the NRA feel threatened enough by to spread lies about them personally and about their aims. They repeatedly stated they do NOT want to ban guns, they want common sense gun laws. Emma did NOT destroy a copy of the Constitution and is a survivor of the Stoneman School mass shooting. David is NOT an actor but a Stoneman School survivor of the mass shooting. They were among the survivors of 6 1/2 minutes of terror, forced into a warlike situation which made them stronger, not weaker. Do they still feel fear? Of course they do; but the sign of heroism is to use that fear to fight back. They have formed an army of those who learned their lessons well and have been thrust into action at a young age.

    Indianapolis, as always, had a pitiful showing. We live with snow so it shouldn’t have kept students and parents or supporters at home. Could our national record of number of voucher students have something to do with the lack of knowledge leading to the lack of action and our failing education system. Yesterday’s blog is closely tied to this issue today; the only surprise for me is that the leaders of this action came from Florida, a political sister-state with a higher level of racism and bigotry.

  4. Pitiful showing in Indianapolis? Friends and family stood in line outside the State House for hours waiting to get in but there wasn’t enough room for everyone who wanted to be part of the rally.

  5. One important thing about Saturday’s march was that the kids didn’t allow any politician to speak. They understood that that would only be more polarizing. They’re not just articulate, they’re smart.

  6. The Parkland student survivors are truly inspiring. Equally amazing, however, are the local students who organized and led the March for Our Lives-Indy on Saturday. WeLIVE Inc. preceded Parkland organizers by over 1 year. Started in response to everyday gun violence in Indianapolis neighborhoods by students, primarily from Warren Central, but now including students from across the city, these young people are articulate, impassioned and organized. Brandon Warren, founder of the group, was interviewed on John Krall’s “No Limits” program 2 weeks ago and the podcast is well worth listening to. Romy Candon, another member or the organizing team and speaker at the March/rally, was profiled in Monday’s IndyStar.

    At St. Luke’s UMC, we held an event on Friday night before the March to recognize the youth leaders who have helped break through the old narrative set by the NRA. Brandon first said he could not come (understandably, given the enormous task of organizing a rally at the Statehouse that had to be moved inside at the last minute because of weather) and said he would send other leaders. The three he sent, all of whom had lost or were close to someone affected by gun violence, were poised, articulate and forceful, and then Brandon surprised us by coming himself, as well.

    So, shout-outs to teachers and staff of Indianapolis schools, as well. You have turned out some remarkable young citizens. We adults, who have let the NRA set its legally false and fear-driven narrative have much to learn from these voices, and much to do to have their backs.

  7. MG; compare the number of marchers; the number here are always at the bottom of any list at all marches and rallies.. Also; your term “waiting to get IN” is a clue to my comment regarding the snow. None of the other millions marching were waiting to get IN anywhere.

  8. The students have put politicians in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position: they’re telling the politicians to pick a side and see what happens in November. We all need to do our part to secure the right outcome and continue to support this effort.

  9. Todd, Civics was not dropped everywhere in the 1950s. In New York State, we studied the structure of state government in the 7th grade, from village to township to county to the state level. In my senior year (’55-’56) we not only read the Constitution, we had to turn our notes in each week so the teacher could see who was “getting” what. And he made comments on the notes before handing them back. I don’t know how representative that curriculum was of other places, but it was not a “day at the beach” where I went to school.

  10. JoAnn,

    “the only surprise for me is that the leaders of this action came from Florida, a political sister-state with a higher level of racism and bigotry.”

    The high level of racism and bigotry is centered in the northern part of Florida or “South Georgia” for a better description. The leaders from Stoneman Douglas are from Broward County which is closer to the southern tip of Florida.

  11. Sheila,

    Do you have any suggestions for how we in Indiana can demand that our public schools require civics education?

    Our educational system in Indiana has much to learn from Florida.

    Unfortunately, our state has been wasting valuable time and resources trying to force taxpayers to fund religious training. Those of us who are still sane must find the time and energy to demand that we include civics education in all schools. It could be easily accomplished by copying Florida’s successful system.

  12. If there was something pitiful about the March for Lives in Indianapolis, it was the media coverage here, but that was hardly a surprise.

    The next step is to keep the pressure on the elected politicians. Former Pennsylvania Senator and onetime GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum had this to say: “How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations where there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that.”

    Santorum’s comments are typical of the Right Wing Reactionaries – blame anything but the real problem, which is the availability of firearms in the USA. Others from the Right Wing Reactionary crowd immediately reacted with name calling and condemning public schools for brainwashing students with Leftist Ideology.

    The attempt by the Right Wing Reactionaries to paint these young protestors as naive and the older people who marched as Marxists is from the same playbook back in the 1960’s. The young people who protested the war in Vietnam, the Draft and a lack of Civil Rights for Blacks, were then labeled as giving aid and comfort to the Communists.

    The elected politicians must be hoping the spirit of March for our Lives will fade away and they can go back to ignoring all the violence here in the USA.

  13. The more one lives with change, the more acceptable it appears to them, and to the young, most of their lives have involved change. As with trees, it takes a while to develop the thick bark that gradually resists change or movement. Education, especially if one maintains and embraces the concept that it should be a constant process, seems to improve elasticity. So, apparently, does living in urban areas, where one is more likely to see things change first.

  14. Local news this morning here in Indianapolis is all about a one-year old girl being shot in some kind of altercation/drive by shooting. Where will Indiana’s political leadership hide today so as to avoid facing questions about this state’s super lax gun laws?

  15. Even if one was out of the country for the last 6 months, reading how freaked out the right wingers and gun nuts were, indicated that somebody had don’t something right.

    Yes, part of the systematic destruction of public education – beginning with the Reagan administration – has taken its toll. We shouldn’t, by any measure of civilization, have to have huge, national demonstrations to put controls of killing devices. We should have already moved past that need in our social evolution…but not in a deregulated, capitalist society, I guess….

  16. Which is why I turn off every time I hear or read about how education must prepare our children for service to corporations, prepare them for the job world. What education must do is prepare our children to be excellent citizens; jobs will take care of themselves.

  17. I’m delighted to report that dozens of people … in my presence … have expressed very flattering words about the Florida kids. A remarkable fact is that the flatterers have been both Democrats and Republicans. I don’t remember this kind of thing ever happening in the past.

    I’m in favor of kids all over the country getting involved in decision planning on a regular basis. The so-called adults need help. Lots of it.

  18. Thank you, Larry. You make a critically important point that I, for one, have bumped up close to but not ever really said straight out loud. The public conversation about the purpose of education was derailed — co-opted, if I may be so bold — when it became about job preparation rather than preparation of citizens. It would be fascinating to research the history of this understanding of purpose, or to read the histories already written by people who recognized what was going on long before I did. And I wonder what the result would be if we could shift the entire financial benefit and burden of training workers onto corporations and companies with very attractive tax benefits and other supports so they at least would leave our schools alone? Granted, we’d still have the religious people to deal with …

  19. Monotonous; you are 100% correct in your comment regarding local media. No news to me that they provide little, if any news, on vital issues. It is even worse for those of us with hearing problems or deafness who must depend on Closed Captioning; it comes and goes if it is provided, getting weather warnings is especially difficult. Reporting to FCC is a difficult, time consuming process and useless; I went through the process a few years ago. It took months for the response from FCC, who received their information from local channels’ legal divisions located in other states. Channels lied to their legal divisions…or their legal divisions lied to the FCC who passed them on to me.

    Maybe the low turnouts here is in part due to the lack of media coverage; we know that would effect the elected officials who wouldn’t get free media coverage even during campaigning for election.

  20. A great reminder of what gets left out, i was wondering how they were so forthright in thier efforts.. hopefully,some will lead, and become examples to further education they have followed,,, question, was the DC march,,,,,, bigger than trumps inauguration ?

  21. a) Park LAND kids are not ALL right by a long shotgun’s length to get to a date in Earth’s history of kids as individuals deluged with adult offers of credits and whatever at 13 years to lobby for Go Fund Me. That ADHD diagnosis is straight out of the 1978 BOOK for the DSM billing codes on line then. So who took the Ward there, not under the 1980 Uniform officers’ Juvenile Code?
    b) Kids can be right some of the time (approaching April 15) but not ALL of us at once as Jurors off-base for the polls with the hanging chads from the voter machines then.
    c) There are 92 Census counties here in which 13 years is not yet funded for those kids to operate a major corporation like our TELEVISION and TELEPHONE equipment relay stations and satellite centers, even at racetracks on the Atlantic 13 Conference PARENTS’ I-95 ramp access I-Routes — not routs or routers in shop classes –to the AIRPORTS there now.

  22. I stood in line downtown, listened to inspirational young people call for action to have sensible gun control laws, and saw thousands standing in line for hours in the wind and snow to lend their support. The local media does a terrible job covering protests here in the city. They are more afraid of losing money from advertising than delivering real news. Infotainment is an apt description for what passes for media coverage in Indianapolis.
    Moving the event indoors or canceling it altogether were options. The weather conditions on the highways and roads in Central Indiana were treacherous. Security and capacity dictated the numbers admitted. With all of the events’ planning being done by the young organizers. I think they did a great job under far less than ideal local conditions.
    The sad part is that the character of these young people is being attacked by the greedy and scared.
    BTW, I had to have civics class to graduate from an Indiana high school in the 1960s, so civics did not disappear in the 50s. My middle aged sons still can sing the Schoolhouse Rock song about “a bill on Capital Hill” that they learned in grade school. Life experience and work have educated them about local, state and federal politics. They have been and continue to be engaged and continuously educate themselves on issues. They are not alone by any means.

  23. todays TheNation, has article, If trump fires mueller,he just might win. heres a perfect example of citizenship gone awry.. obviously, watching the eternal spin cycle on the fox,or social media has turned favorable polls of mueller to negitve,as which lately has been hyped again…really,do we forget that this is,our only country,and only govenment being taken over by what i dont call short of nazis…

  24. I read that article in THE NATION too. Now I want to read RISE AND FALL OF THIRD REICH. We have a zillion Americans and a fairly small group of Trump. Tell me why he is still in office?! I dont want our oldest grandson to get maimed or killed because of Bolton and Trump.

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